Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events Just One More Adventure: Taking Comfort

Taking Comfort

 

 Taking Comfort

Nothing brings comfort like repetition of the known, the tried and true, of the past. Every late summer I begin the process of cleaning up debris as they form in my garden. Along with the cleanup process is a basket of promises I make to myself each year. “This is the year I complete cleaning up my garden so it will be ready when spring arrives. Well, if I at least keep the paths clean of debris, the garden will look so much better when I walk during winter. Then there is a final resignation of ‘if I can get half the garden cleaned, then I will only have a half left to clean come late winter.’ Those are the tip of my iceberg of promises I make to myself as a gardener. I must find comfort in my delusions, for I hold on to some many of them.

Fall foliage at the header of my water feature

This year is a touch different. I began with a well-organized list of tasks to kick off the celebration of the season. I selected only one section of the garden and placed all my focus, all my gardening efforts, on this now hallowed ground. First task up was to remove all existing weeds (the first foolish promise I made to myself. I have never removed all the weeds in any section of my garden in all its history). But, in my defense, I did one hey of a job completing what I was able to weed. I would say about less than half of my intended efforts were accomplished.

 

Pride

Actually I was quite proud of my focus, for as the weeds found a new home in the middle of a path, I had a vision. All this new space called out for new plants. Answering the call, I made several trips to local garden centers and purchased dwarf shrubs with colorful foliage along with a mix of textures. Remaining in the promised land, I redesigned sections creating new life and color to the area. While standing and taking short breaks I could look out over other sections of the garden and see where I could bring new matching design to those areas. As I age I find myself wanting to see more color, more drama in my garden. But, and this is a large but, I held fast and stayed in my area of focus. I was so proud of me.

 

Deviation

This time around I added a new feature to my basket. Once weeds were in the paths and shrubs were transplanted I took the time to spread newspapers several layers thick, then dampened them so they would stay in place. I purchased bags of pine bark mini chips and then spread them over the paper about three inches deep. This time around I was doing it right. One step at a time, complete a section before moving on. Be sure this one thing is completed before wandering off into another project and no one thing will ever get completed. Of course, by going through all the steps for a great garden, the cleanup took much more time than originally imagined and planned for. So, while ahead of the game in one area, I fell behind in others. Kind of like two steps forward, one step back.

 

Help

Another sign of fall, Cyclamen hederifolium with Christmas Tree pattern in the foliage

I have heard fellow gardeners and friends tell me for years that I need help, I just assumed it was mental they were referring to. I did come to my senses and asked for help in the garden. A young fellow gardener came once a month most of the summer and concentrated on weeding in the garden. Since I did not get the areas mulched where she weeded, some of the weeds returned, but overall it was of help. While I enjoyed the company in the garden, I also learned that there was no way I would be able to manage and enjoy this much garden and the responsibility that comes with it. As I keep telling myself, perhaps by next spring I will be in better physical health, able to do more, to keep up with time to spare for a time out on a bench. (One more promise from my basket).

 

Ritual

My ritual of fall continues for it once more turned too cold, too rainy, to work outside even in the afternoons. Shut out of the garden before I could keep my promises to myself again this fall. The last of the falling leaves remain to be chopped and spread in the garden for mulch. The debris from walnut trees with stems and black walnuts, limbs from wind storms, leaves and piles of weeds remain to remind me again this fall of good intentions gone awry. However, I remind myself that what I experience each fall comes well within the definition of gardener.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.

Fall Garden Fun

Fall Garden Fun

Four Roses Anniversary Rose transplant

 

There are times when all comes together in my gardening like the flow of maple syrup. A sweet warm beginning to the chill in the air.

 

I garden next door to Kentucky which is big Bourbon country and continual events are celebrating with tours, tasting, food and anniversaries this fall. Currently Four Roses Bourbon is among the celebrants by featuring a rose named after their trademark.

 

Four Roses Anniversary Rose

While completing my celebrating, Mid-October arrived and so did my anticipated order of Four Roses Anniversary rose from Jackson and Perkins. I took the box to the greenhouse and opened to find a box constructed as though it contained Fabergé eggs. The inside had custom construction to hold a plant and container without spilling a grain of soil. Not a leaf nor a stem was at the bottom of the box. First up was to remove the contents and then read Jackson and Perkins instructions.  The rose was set on the bench for a two day rest from its travels which

give me time to prepare a bed.

 

My wife was in the process of cleaning up her raised beds for the winter and the bed to receive the rose was already cleared. The afternoon was perfect weather for fall work with those chilly mornings and warm sunny afternoons.

I added some compost to the bed, turned soil and compost over, then thoroughly mixed the two to spade depth. The aged cedar raised bed would contain only the rose until next spring when some trailing annuals with shallow roots would be added. I do not want the annuals competing with the roots of the rose, so the rose is offset in the bed to give the annuals room to play. This is not a necessity, but it is a part of my way of designing and future care.

 

A hole was opened in the soil and the rose was set in, then soil pulled back over its roots, making sure the soil line was the same as where it had been in the container. I like to transplant just a touch high for the soil will settle over time, and I will be adding a mulch to hold in moisture, keep out weeds, and help moderate the temperature of the soil. Next up was a sprinkling can of water gently applied to foliage and roots.

Once mulched that should be all the care needed until spring when the rose awakens. Only two more steps remained. One was to stand and admire my handiwork before putting the tools away. After that step I could go into a wait and anticipate mode.

 

The next two nights have a forecast of light frost, then a freeze, so both the  Four Roses Anniversary Rose and I will spend time doing a bit of growing. I with my expanding bellybutton over winter eating cookies with my tea, and the roots of the rose growing to put on larger feeders.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events Just One More Adventure: Gardener’s Day Off

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just One More Adventure: Gardener’s Day Off

 

Day Off

There are occasions when not being in my garden can be one of the best garden days ever.

Liz, my garden friend, arrived to give me a hand working in the garden. Plans had been made almost a month previously for this work day, but weather said otherwise. It rained the night before, fall had finally arrived temperature-wise and the winds simply refused to die down. It was one of those fit for neither man nor beast mornings to be crawling around in the garden. Liz was willing but I begged off being out there; I am not into being miserable to have fun.

So, I suggested an alternative plan. I put forth we spend the day garden center hopping and have lunch while out. I did not get the feeling that her agreeing with me was in the least reluctant. We wasted no time in getting on the road. After all, that sharp cold wind would be far less uncomfortable in garden centers.

 

Roadside Stand

At a four way stop in a small rural community we could not miss the traditional fall colors that called to us. There was an open shed surrounded table upon table filled to overflowing with color. There were plants on the ground as well as tables, and wagon loads of bright fall harvest colors. There were gourds of all shapes and colors, pumpkins of all sizes on display in white to bright waxy red and orange, and of course mums. All sizes of mums, special sales on multiple purchases and each was trimmed to perfection. Varieties of the blooms colors was a show stopper and pulled me into the sales office with four mums to go into trunk of my car. Once inside there apples, jams and jellies, the entire wallet trap. I left with Damson Plum preserves, apples for a cobbler I was going to make to celebrate fall, and the mums.

First stop was certainly a celebration of local fall color and tradition. All would have made a great American folk painting such as depicted by Grandma Moses on 1970’s psychedelics.

 

Stop Two

Hemiboea henryi, the glossy groundcover

Just outside of the town of Ramsey, IN, about one to two miles from the produce stand was Adamson We-Gro Nursery & Garden Center, a nursery and garden center that I had not visited in years.  Over that time they had almost doubled in size to about two acres. Also the inventory was as good as any much larger garden center. Now I wish I had been there in spring when their display areas were filled to overflowing with evergreens, trees and shrubs with perennials thrown in alongside new containers and all other garden needs. It truly was two acres of temptation.

The garden center manager turned out to be someone I knew from the past when I was in the nursery business and it was like old home week. We talked plants, we talked nursery business, and we did a touch of gossip along with their recent history. All the while walking the aisles and pausing to stare at another plant that had residence on my lust-list. I made an agreement to return with my lust-list and share with her and she would keep them in mind when ordering inventory next spring.

I suppose the minor gods were looking after me and saw that I was driving a compact car as opposed to a pickup truck. Liz became fascinated by a Hydrangea Twist and Shout in full bloom and foliage so big she could not get her arms around it. I have to admit it was a beauty and a strong temptation, but I had dwarf shrubs on the mind. She also picked up one of the largest and healthiest Tassel ferns I have seen in a container. Both at very reasonable prices and a discount at the register.

I had not purchased a conifer of size in years and there stood a half dozen in perfection. You know the rest of the story from there. Yes, I did purchase a Cryptomeria Black Dragon that stood about six feet in height and very full with its fall cones on display. No way to get it into the car with Liz’s purchases so I have to go back to pick it up, and already I am remembering a couple more conifers I saw while there. I did place one of those amazingly large and full Polystichum polyblepharum fern……….. in the trunk.

Liz got to pick where we were to have lunch. We made a quick stop for at Lunch Chick-Fill-A, took a window seat in the sun and relived out morning conquer of garden centers and told each other of our justifications for making purchases.

 

Strategic Pause

Lunch and conversations was great, but sitting in the sun, warming up with a full tummies was not our smartest move. It was a bit like having lunch and then going to the grocery store. We went to another large garden center but our hearts were not really into it. We were full for the day and it was an hour’s drive back to my place and she had another hour’s drive to get home. There was one more nursery on the list, but it would have to wait for another time as the day was over.

 

Photo Proven Winners

Day Plus One

I “just happened” to be on an errand the next day and passed the small garden center Liz and I passed over the day before. Well, I could hardly drive by without stopping and, as it turns out, the stop was arranged by higher powers. As soon as I walked into the display area there was the dwarf butterfly bush I was seeking. Only one left, the named cultivar, Low and Behold Blue Chip to become a companion to the other two in the series already in my garden. It was in bloom, at a reasonable price, and then in my trunk.

 

And, there you have it. Not one, but two days in a row, of gardening without going near my garden.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.

 

Just Another Adventure: Fall Makeover: Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just Another Adventure: Fall Makeover:

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Lilium superbum

 

Fall Makeover

 

Doing What Comes Naturally

Well, what comes naturally to gardeners. Fall has arrived, so the palms of my hands were itching to hold a spade and go dig in some garden soil. Find something to move, something to discard, something to give away, do another remake and end with a shout “Ha! Take that weeds!” I may, or may not, get all that accomplished, but I did do a complete makeover of a bed that was originally completed something like twenty years ago.

Needless to say, after all this time my original design had unraveled over the years due to using only perennials. The bed ended up with a grand total of two thugs battling it out for world (well, their world) domination.

 

Act One

The first act was to remove the two remaining players and that took digging and turning over soil twice. Each working of the soil took more time than anticipated for somehow my age has taken command of all projects. The soil was in good condition so I did not have to work in any compost. My best guess is next spring I will find a few little green noses taunting me.

 

Good Shape

I still enjoy the original overall shape of the bed so that remains as is. The back side of the bed is defined by cedar posts sunk side by side to form a rustic wall. The overall outline is of a dog bone with a bow in the middle: a narrow arched strip with a bulb on each end. The front of the bed is defined by limestone rocks picked up as the garden was originally dug. There is a bench shaded by a conifer facing the bed from across a small circular room. Size of the bed is eighteen feet long by about six feet wide.

 

One bulb-shaped end of the bed has a Japanese maple with foliage that opens orange, red and yellow in spring and gradually fades over to green for summer, shifting back to red and yellow in the fall. At the opposite end the other bulb now has a weeping redbud with purple foliage. Cercis canadensis “Ruby Falls” has somewhat small semi-glossy leaves that shift from purple in the spring to yellow in the fall. Blooms are lavender-pink, but I am only after the color of the foliage.

 

Seasons

My preferred style of gardening is to have blooms in sequence as opposed to an all-out hit-you- between-the- eyes planting. I enjoy foliage textures and colors almost as much as I enjoy the more visually striking flowers. Also, why transplant one layer when you can have several layers that come and go with the seasons?  I like to think the additional expense and travel to the local gardens centers (I know, it is a sacrifice and one I am willing to perform for the garden) is rewarded with a longer showing.

 

Late Winter Early Spring

I began transplanting at the end of the bed where the Japanese maple was located. Among the roots of the maple I transplanted mature Christmas Rose seedlings that had sprung up in other parts of the garden. I thought the late winter blooms of Helleborus niger in white aging to red-pink with fresh felt green foliage would be a most excellent beginning. If you have hellebores in the garden then it is mandatory to add snowdrops. I began with clumps of Galanthus with their snow-white bells near the Hellebores to add bright green and clean white along with the hellebore blooms beneath bare limbs of the maple. Just as leaves begin to emerge on the maple the hellebore blooms fade to red-pink and the Galanthus are only green grassy clumps which will quickly fade into dormancy. The foliage on the hellebores gets to remain all twelve months of the year.

I dug clumps of snowdrops from other locations in the garden and placed five more clumps in a weaving pattern down the bed. About midway another Hellebore; a Tibetan hellebore was transplanted with its unusual soft pink petals with purple-red veins. Another hellebore sits beneath the weeping redbud.

While the hellebores and snowdrops are at their best they are joined by three Adonis amurensis. If you are not familiar with Adonis they form clumps of very fine feathery foliage in deepest green with bright, waxy, yellow blooms. They sure catch your attention, especially with all the other plants in bloom.

 

Summer

Both the snowdrops and the Adonis go dormant just after blooming and setting seed. The new foliage of the trees at either end of the bed are linked by the evergreen hellebores. As the snowdrops and Adonis fade, I now have species lilies weaving throughout the bed.

I have always had a fondness for lilies, but it is the species lilies that hold my attention best. I do have some of the large hybrid trumpet lilies in other parts of the garden, but for this area I began by moving two clumps of Lilium tsingtauense with blooms of what I would refer to as Halloween orange with freckles. The six narrow petals are widely spaced and on a flat plane with a space that makes me think it was going to add a seventh but gave up at the last minute. Next up I continued with Martagon lilies. Specifically, Lilium martagon ‘Claude Shride’ with its recurved petals of heavy waxy substance in deepest red with freckled yellow center. The red and yellow clumps of Claude Shride now form a small drift beneath the Japanese maple with its red foliage.

Extending down the bed in a weave are Lilium amabile in both orange and a yellow cultivars. By now I had reached the purple leaf redbud so I finished up the lilies with another Lilium amabile in clear lemon yellow and another martagon in melon.  I found a seedling of a coffee-brown foliage hardy geranium and thought that would make a good companion so in that  went. The area was completed with an Autumn fern in copper and gold on a right green background.

 

Late Summer, Fall

As the lilies complete their blooms, they will be deadheaded and I will watch for the next round of plants to emerge from the spikes of lilium. I transplanted three Arisaema fargessi with their stout stature and very large leaves. Eventually the three will form tight clumps that will almost touch each other in the bed. Bloom is like a seersucker suit in mahogany brown with white stripes. After the blooms there will be fire engine red seed clusters.

While all of the above is going on ferns emerge and freshen and will last from late spring well into winter. I began with three Athyrium filix-femina Dre’s Dagger with its narrow fronds that are crisscrossed and ending in small crests. One sits beneath the maple, the other two about mid-way along the bed with cedar posts as a background. The Autumn fern finishes up the ferns for the bed.

 

Now comes the wait until next spring when all my expectations become reality.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.

 

Just Another Adventure: Keeping a Promise to Me Part 3: Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just Another Adventure: Keeping a Promise to Me Part 3:

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Waterfall in Anderson Japanese Gardens

Day Three

 

Anderson Japanese Garden

On our final day of exploring gardens I was looking forward to disappointment; being let down. How could anything equal or top what we had experienced over the past two days? I was in the process of resigning myself to a rather long day of ho-hum. Then I quickly found out just how wrong one person can be. Another life lesson for Gene. Don’t make decisions before you know the facts.

 

Facts

First up, the facts. Anderson Japanese Gardens is located in Rockford, IL. The short story is a businessman named John Anderson loved all things Japanese. Over a period of years he constructed a Japanese style garden in his swampy back yard. Mr. Anderson visited the Portland Japanese garden and formed a relationship with the director, Mr. Kurisu. Hoichi Kurisu became the designer of Anderson Japanese Gardens and now every tree, every stone, every path flawlessly speaks the language of Japanese gardens. If you know you will never make the trip to Japan, Anderson is the American Mecca of this style garden.

 

My Guess

My guess is everyone who walks the paths at Anderson sees a different garden on several levels. Physically I would say the paths chosen to walk the garden lead to different rooms of design, subtle shifts in plants and hardscaping. Then there is the spiritual aspect. It is almost impossible to find words for this sense, but if you allow it, you will leave refreshed, renewed and calmer behind your bellybutton. We spent the entire day walking the paths, crossing streams and bridges to visit each room. By the end of that day I was both exhausted and renewed.

 

Paths

I do not remember the existence of anything resembling a straight path. All paths wandered and meandered, each reaching out to control your speed as you walked. All textures were there to experience with each step. Some paths were wide enough to accommodate crowds of strollers, some of whom were in strollers and wheelchairs, others dictated you walk in single file. There was always a reward around each bend, another temptation see what was in the next room, the next opening with an expansive view.

If, for some reason, I could only walk one section of path it would be around the pond strolling garden.

 

Trees and Shrubs

With the last name of Bush, how could I not be fascinated by trees and shrubs? While I may be exaggerating just a tab, it seemed as though every limb, every twig, every leaf and needle was exactly where it should be in the overall scheme of things. The attention given to each shrub, each Japanese maple, every evergreen was as though every individual had its own personal trainer. I can only imagine the attention to detail, the stepping back and observing, walking forth and nipping, walking back once more multiplied over time and time again to achieve this end.

 

Stones

When driving in IL and WI I am always amazed by the smoothly polished granite stones everyone has in their gardens. I am told each stone was carried to the region by glaciers, then left as the ice retreated. The stones were rolled over and over in the ice as in a gem tumbler. Given millions of years the stones lost their edges and became smooth as a baby’s behind.

In Anderson they were literally raised to new heights. I saw stones as big as VW beetles stacked like children’s toys along the creek. It boggles the mind to try and imagine how each stone found its place one on top of the others. There were times when I entered a room featuring these large boulders and would stand in silence, lost in my imagination and the feeling that I should somehow make a connection.

 

Water

From the moment I walked out the door into the garden there was water. Water flowing over falls that spoke to you as you walked by. There were falls of every size from the monster West Waterfall to the small streams gracefully stepping down to flow under an arched bridge. It seemed as though every path had its individual stream, waterfall and bridge. Usually there was a bench nearby each fall with a view.

I remember two large lakes, each filled with koi large enough to ride and flashing color as they skimmed the surface with their mouths open following each human as they came near an edge.

 

Manmade

I remember the many Japanese lanterns in granite, the large bridges over the Spring creek, and a Tea house. There was a viewing house out over the pond and to its right a long rambling spirit bridge. I know I am forgetting so many features, but the best way to overcome my memory is to spend the day at Anderson yourself.

 

Future Visit

When my body becomes compost, Anderson is where I want to be sent for my next life. Perhaps become the spirit of a Cryptomeria overlooking the koi, or a solid presence in one of those huge polished granite boulders.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.